By Mary T. Kelly, MA
As Tom Hanks reminded us so lovingly via his Instagram account, while he and wife Rita Wilson (who’s a stepmom, by the way) were detained at an Australian hospital after being diagnosed with coronavirus, “There is no crying in baseball.” The two have since been discharged and are self-quarantining.
As his statement relates to the way all of our lives have been drastically changed—and will continue to be—I couldn’t agree more. I’ve always been a believer that the unexpected and often unwelcome situations which come our way are opportunities to learn something new: to become a bit wiser, a little more compassionate and a little more connected to others and ourselves.
For many stepfamilies, recent school closings have led to a significant increase in time with the kids who usually occupy our homes either part-time or full-time. For some stepmoms, this extra time to bond may be a welcome opportunity. For others, close proximity for extended periods have the ability to place a strain on already fragile in-step relationships.
It’s important for stepmoms to remember that having kids at home—step or not—can cause both parents and stepparents alike to experience even more stress than they’d prefer. You may hate it, resent it, resist it and want to deny it. But this virus doesn’t care what your custody agreement says or how parenting time typically plays out when it comes to your stepkids.
This virus doesn’t respect the pure and simple fact that, sometimes, stepmoms need a break or space to themselves. Or that Dad might have an easier time dealing with the kids himself, especially when it comes to issues like discipline or issuing consequences for disrespecting said stepmom in his absence or simply because they, too, are feeling pent up and anxious.
I think that, for the human race, this can be our finest hour. The hidden treasure in this unsettling time is that none of us is truly alone. On a global level, people are: anxious, concerned, scared, ill and worse. It’s a great time to connect more mindfully on a human level with everyone in your extended stepfamily—even with those who may have previously been unkind or hurt you.
And I do mean everyone. Keep Tom Hanks’ words close to your heart in the days to come. When you feel like crying, remind yourself that your situation could be worse. Do all you can to look forward rather than look backward. There will be a time when we put all of this behind us. When it comes, everything will no doubt look brighter, fresher and more precious than ever.
MARY T. KELLY, MA, is offering 15- and 30-min. stress reduction and survival sessions for stepmoms at a reduced rate during these challenging times. For details, visit her website at RealStepfamilies.com or email her directly via Mary@RealStepfamilies.com.
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